This week is Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read anything you want. Banned Books Week was initiated in 1982 to highlight the problem of censorship in books all over the world. This includes both children and adult books.
I myself have been subject to censorship. You can read my previous rant about St George here. I still have not managed to get over this yet, as you can see as I repeated myself a year later here and here. I was also suspended in 2002, for reading the last thirteen lines of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in a Church school, which in my opinion was ridiculous, as it is all about friendship and has nothing to do with witchcraft what-so-ever. I was seven months pregnant at the time and had all ready handed my notice into the school as I was not planning on going back to work after I had my baby. Truth be told, the head and I had several run-ins that Term. But, I realised she was just plain crazy when one day, she suggested the rules for punctuating speech may have been changed overnight.
Anne Rooney has written an insightfully, funny article for the New Humanist website about her and fellow writer’s experiences of censorship. This article was made even more interesting for me, as I was privy to a lot of the initial discussion about it on the NibWeb forum. In her article, ‘Banned: the hidden censorship of children's books’ published’ she highlights how many children’s books are censored, to mainly appease the American market, even before they come to press. This is especially true of children’s non-fiction, which seems strange when you think these books are based on the real world.
Why hide reality from children? Why would American kids find hedgehogs confusing when UK kids do not find porcupines confusing? By excluding hedgehogs from books are we protecting the American children, or giving them a distorted view of the World?
The Banned Book Week website suggests schools could organise a discussion forum on book banning using examples like Harry Potter, or Twilight to develop children’s analytical skills by asking such questions as:
• Why do you think this book was banned?
• Why do people ban books?
• Why do you like this book?
If you have had experience of censorship, or know of books that have been banned for inexplicit reasons, please leave a comment and let me know.